TikTok’s Lululemon Fanatics Are Turning Athleisure into Collectibles

Collecting the tags from Lululemon's yoga pants and sports bras has become the latest trend for the brand's ride-or-die fans.

When I talked to Jess McKay on a Monday morning, she was wearing a magenta Lululemon tank top layered under a “raw linen” colored button down from Lululemon’s men’s offerings. Her two Italian greyhounds skittered around the room until she got up and grabbed one to land in her lap.

“I’ve basically lived my life in Lululemon from 2006 until now,” McKay told me. “I'm always wearing and living in their clothes. I have a wedding to go to in the fall and I'm gonna have to buy an outfit, because literally my entire closet is Lululemon. It's not a joke, it's like, 100 percent Lululemon.” 

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In one TikTok video, she runs her hands through a shoebox of hundreds of Lululemon clothing tags: the thick, tall, detailed cards attached to every item that feel more like trading cards than something you rip off and throw out after purchase. 

Most people with a passing awareness of women’s clothing and yoga pant trends probably remember Lululemon Athletica from their red tote bags with pseudoscience-y Dr. Bronner’s style sayings all over them (“stress is related to 99% of all illness,” “sunscreen absorbed into the skin might be worse for you than sunshine,” “water flushes toxins from your body,” and so on). But the 24 year old brand has managed to earn itself a following with a new generation on TikTok—where users have taken its reputation from cult-like among upwardly mobile women with “yoga body” aspirations, to a viral internet sensation among both millennials and college or highschool-aged consumers alike. 

Now, instead of reusing a shopping bag covered in aphorisms as a show of status and devotion to the brand, people are posting their massive collections of Lululemon tags to TikTok.

There are, from a scrolling estimate, easily hundreds of Lululemon influencers on TikTok, doing unboxings, hauls, try-ons, and displays of massive collections of clothing and recently, piled of tags. “It’s a little happy place, it's its own little world,” Corinne Blangy, who started her Lululemon-focused TikTok in 2021 but has been shopping at the store since she was in middle school more than 10 years ago, told me. 

Now, there are dozens of tag collection videos to be found on the app. For collectors, there are a few different motivations for keeping tags, whether they’re stored meticulously or thrown in a box, according to these influencers. McKay and Blangy both told me that the information on the tag is nice to have on hand; information like materials, fit, color and sizing can be hard to track down again after they’ve tossed the tag. There’s also a big resale market for used Lululemon clothing, and giving someone the original tag can help with the sale. And websites like Lulu Fanatics, a massive database of current, out of production and “vintage” clothing, can be used to cross-reference with tag information. Blangy said she has so much Lululemon stuff, the binder also acts as a personal catalog of her closet.

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The tag collections are also representative of thousands of dollars worth of clothing; a pair of Lululemon leggings from the women’s collection runs around $130 on average, up to almost $200. Blangy estimates that she’s spent around $7,000 on Lululemon clothing throughout her life. McKay said she didn’t purchase all of her items at retail price and can’t accurately estimate what she’s spent over the years; part of it has been discounted, since she’s part of the “Sweat Collective,” Lululemon’s program for fitness professionals.

McKay is a fitness instructor and yoga teacher, and on TikTok, she’s amassed almost 35,000 followers who watch her videos because they, too, are obsessed with the athleisure brand. Even though she’s been wearing Lululemon clothing for 16 years, she only just began seriously collecting the swing tags that come attached to each item in 2021, when the trend of showing off your collection—in boxes, bins, binder, or just huge stacks splayed out on the floor—started to take off on TikTok. Someone asked to see her collection while she was doing a live stream; she has 150 tags in Canada, where she recently moved from, and 100 in her current apartment in New York.

Blangy, who is a Lululemon influencer on TikTok but an engineer by day, told me that like McKay, her closet is dominated by Lululemon; keeping the tags is like having a database of what she owns in a sea of Lycra.

Corinne’s video showing her tags stored neatly in a binder caught the attention of other fanatics, who asked for a follow-up showing how she bought the materials to make it. She has 72 in the binder, and another 20 or so elsewhere.

The brand has taken off on social media, McKay said. “I think especially with TikTok, there's this huge phenomenon,” she said. Items like the Belt Bag, which has been around for years, are now near-impossible to find in stock, partially because it went viral on TikTok earlier this summer. 

“It goes viral and then all of the sudden, it’s sold out,” Blangy said. “And I feel like because it's getting sold out, and because it's viral on TikTok, people think, ‘hmm, maybe I want this.’”

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We don’t know how much TikTok collectors’ viral posts are actually helping the brand. But the official Lululemon TikTok account has been pouring energy into this world, too—the account quadrupled its monthly uploads and followers in the last year.  

McKay was a Lululemon “educator,” the title for store employees who are tasked with helping people pick out sports bras and while maintaining an “upbeat, optimistic, passionate, friendly and authentic” attitude, in 2015 and again in 2019. She no longer works at Lululemon’s stores, but is part of the “Lululemon Collective,” an affiliate program for digital content creators and influencers to get paid when people buy products through their links.

She sees the content she’s putting on TikTok as an extension of the work she did in stores: demonstrating how to remove the long “rip tag” that’s sewn into the clothing, showing the clothes on a real human body (Lululemon’s product listings overwhelmingly show thin, tall models), giving information about new products and “drops.” And sometimes, that includes answering audience questions about her massive swing tag collection.

The Align tank that McKay wore when we spoke, she said, helped her feel comfortable wearing crop tops for the first time—and part of that is because the tag told her so. “It’s so liberating for me to realize, like, hey, I can wear whatever I want. It's more functional,” she said. “And it goes back to the tags, because it has all of these functional things listed. Like, ‘oh, I'm wearing this because the fabric is meant to be comfortable. And the design is supposed to be like a generous feel.’”

Blangy’s instructional video about using binders to organize tags went viral enough to break out of the Lululemon fan community on TikTok, and into other people’s feeds and For You pages. The video received a lot of confused, occasionally mean comments from people asking why someone would do this. “i’ve watched this at least 7 times hoping it would make sense, but i’m still confused,” one person said. “I can’t handle that lululemon is a personality trait for some people,” a Disney merch influencer wrote. 

“This isn’t for you,” Blangy said. “Like, you don't have to watch.” 

Tagged:

Social Media, retail, Lululemon

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